This week’s submissions lean a little more to the dark side. Must be something in the holiday air. Speaking of, the holidays are probably (at least partially) to blame for a lack of new authors. To that end, you are going to be graced with one of my attempts, again. Thanks to Jenness Jordan and M. James MacLaren for submitting wonderful stories, again, to the site. Your support is tremendously appreciated! ~T
Torn: The Reason (Part I)
By Jenness Jordan
A dream of a wedding by the sea filled my head along with the sounds of laughter and cheer. Duncan stood under a gazebo wearing a black Armani tuxedo with his hair slightly pulled back. He seemed to be waiting for someone. In a flash, there I was. Standing down at the end of a long lace runner, in a champagne ball gown with a sweetheart neckline, Swarovski crystal beads embroidered throughout the bodice, curved Basque waist and semi-cathedral train. Pearls and ¼ cut diamonds embedded a crystal crown attached to a long satin veil that rested on my head.
My hair loosely curled and pulled lightly in the back and held up by jeweled pins with one loose curl that hung on either side of my face. Resting on my chest was a Swarovski Butterflies frontal necklace, which matched the Austrian crystal and faux pearl earrings and bracelet that I wore. Clothed on my hands were a pair of satin gloves that stretched halfway up my arm. My bouquet of white roses; lilacs; and pink tinged orchids; was accented by the garlands of white roses and lilacs that wrapped around six pillars that stood in between each row of seats.
The orchestra began to play as I stepped slowly down the runner. I‘ve never seen Duncan so elated. He had such a glow about him. One that reminded me of a firefly. I could hardly believe that in seconds I would be Mrs. Duncan McKrae. That I would be able to see his beautiful face every day for the rest of my life. We decided to express ourselves with song instead of doing traditional vows. It was beautiful. Our voices like one. The minister was about to announce that we were married, just as a loud and strange noise circled the air.
“Vicki, stay with me. “Duncan pleaded, trying to hold onto my hand.
“I can’t something is pulling me. Help me.” I cried.
His hands slipped from mine and I was gone.
Upon opening my eyes, I found myself back in the hotel room and someone was knocking on the door.
Oh, my! What a dream. It seemed so real. I can still feel the ocean breeze on my skin and the touch of Duncan’s skin on mine.
“Duncan, I’m so glad that you’re back. I just had the most amazing dream.” I called out, heading to the door, then continued saying, “You will never guess…” I stopped dead in my tracks as I opened the door.
“I’ll never guess what, sweet stuff.”
“LUKE!” I screamed.
“Now, now. We have to keep this down; we don’t want to draw any attention to us, at least, not yet.” He said, then quickly placing a cloth over my mouth, forcing me back into the room and locking the door behind him.
Luke tied the cloth tightly around my mouth then began tying my hands together and moving me towards the bed and then pushing me down onto it. After tying my hands and feet to the bed, Luke closed the drapes and turned off all the lights, with the exception of the lamp near the bed.
“There, much better. “ He said, smiling menacingly at me, sitting down on a chair next to me, and then pulling out a bottle from within his coat.
“I would offer you some, but, other, than the fact that you are not supposed to be drinking, someone has gone and gagged you. “ He snickered
Tearful mumbles seeping through my gag, trying desperately to beg him to remove it, but he shook his head.
“I told you that we can’t draw any attention to ourselves, just yet.”
Fear began to rise inside me, as well as, an increasing pain in my stomach. Salty water streaming down my face.
“Awe! Are you scared sweet stuff? Why are you so scared? It’s not like I am going to hurt you?” He said in a sinister voice, reaching into his jacket once again, and pulling out a 48 revolver.
I began screaming as loud as I could, but it was no use. My voice, muffled from the gag.
“If you don’t want me to use this, then shut up!” He yelled, and then lowering his tone continued, “We just need to be patient and wait for lover boy to get back and then we can all have a nice little talk. Who knows, maybe we’ll even have a little party. “
Luke picked up the bottle and began drinking it very fast. Distorted thoughts ran through my mind.
Oh, Duncan, please help me, I’m so scared. Why is Luke doing this? Duncan was right about him. Please, Lord help me!
For more information about Jenness Jordan, check out her site: jennessjordan. You can also reach her by email at email@example.com
By M. James MacLaren
When I first saw it, it was chained in St. John’s cellar. The lights had been dimmed more for effect than to keep the poor creature comfortable. St. John revealed him with the air of a man revealing a gold-plated bidet: ostentatiousness with the specific purpose of repulsion. The ultimate “you don’t have one of these”. He brought me to it in the middle of the tour of his manor, after the expansive kitchens and before the distillery, selecting a thick port from the rack, “for afters”, in pretense.
I heard the burbling snuffle as St. John droned on about the vintage of the wine and I cast my gaze into the furthest shadows beyond the rows. Two magnesium sparks of reflected light drew my eyes and St. John pounced upon his chance to show me his acquisition with the appropriate nonchalance. He led me by the elbow with a familiar grip I did not much care for to view the beast, which he called a ghast.
The creature was humanoid and bipedal, squatting on gangly legs that were almost arachnoid in their slenderness. The arms were similarly thin and ended in hands that were closer to raptor claws than any mammalian appendage. The body was thin to the point of emaciation, the muscles and ribs visible through the skin with harsh contrasts of light and shadow.
The head was the most alien thing I have ever seen. The crown, with sparse wisps of black hair, was bulbous like that of a human or neanderthal, but perhaps a bit rounder in the occipital region. The ears were small and circular, the final arc of each lobe melding into the flesh of the cheek. The nose and jaw stretched away from the skull similar to the face of an ass, only straight instead of with the downward sloping consistent with those from the equus genus. From the end of the muzzle grew four small tentacles, the end of each housing a small milky bulb that looked like an eye.
The ghast made low, hooting sounds as I approached and slid forward with a graceless lumber. A shackle around its neck, locked with a small, brass lock, attached the creature to the cellar wall with a heavy chain, and the creature strained against it in its attempt to greet me. St. John chuckled as it choked itself on its bond, and tossed it a strip of raw beef he pulled from the pocket of his smoking jacket. The ghast snapped the beef out of the air with its jaws and swallowed it with the same head-tilted jerking with which a hawk devours a hare.
“Caught the devil while on safari a few years ago. The locals claim that it is a demon that was made flesh when the lower planes collapsed and were pressed into the material realm. This bugger had been feeding on their children and elderly for fifteen months. I thought about just putting it out of its misery, but I tranked it instead.”
I made a non-committal noise he took as awe, and he took me by the elbow again. The ghast watched as St. John led me away, and I thought I discerned an intelligent melancholy in those yellow-white glowing eyes. One of the raptor claws raised in a familiar gesture of negation as we walked to the distillery.
Later, after the port had been spiked and St. John had robbed me of my chasteness, I lie awake in the darkness. His essence mixed with maidenhood’s lost blood as my fury at myself and hatred of the man, who my grandfather had once called his closest brother, welled up within me until my chest felt as though it would burst. In less than six hours, the man had damned me to exile. I could not explain the love bites, dotting my flesh like pox marks from my neck to my nethers, to anyone who would believe me. He was the Lord St. John, and I was but a tween, barely old enough for my bosoms to require covering.
The melancholy eyes flashed in my memory and I recognized now that the pitiful creature the old man kept in his cellar and I were kindred spirits. We were both collected by him. We were both enslaved by his actions. We were both denied the right to a clean death. We were both damned.
The shame and fury finally moved me and I gently slid from beneath the cadaverous arm that had pinned my shoulder down as he had taken me. I stripped out of my dress and shift, both now ruined with the remnants of my innocence. I threw them into the fire, unwilling to allow him even the fabrics of his conquest as a trophy. I turned to slip from the room when the glint of metal caught my eye.
From the pocket of his smoking jacket, so hastily cast aside during the moments prior to maidenkill, a keyring had fallen to the rug. On it was a small, brass key. I hesitated only briefly before taking the ring and leaving the room, providing fate the avenue with which to reverse the roles of predator and prey.
For more from M. James MacLaren, check out his website: mjamesmaclaren.com. You can also follow him on Facebook: M James MacLaren. His novelettes, Harbinger (The Hounds Part I), Chimera (The Hounds Part II), and The Cell (The Hounds Part III) are all available for Kindle through Amazon.com (links are embedded in their titles).
By Tony Wassom
Eggnog and bourbon.
Every December 24th, for the past fifteen years, I have eggnog and bourbon.
The first time was in Jimmy’s basement.
It was all he had to drink.
Jimmy was a friend…a good friend. He felt the same about me, though his wife and I didn’t really get along. We came up together through school and a couple of after college jobs. When his daughter was born, I was the first one at the hospital; when my first wife left me, he was the only one who took my side.
We used to sit in his man-cave, play guitars, drink the hard stuff, and sing better the more we drank. His basement…that was where it all happened, fifteen years ago.
He was my friend, maybe my best friend. There was nothing that could keep me from him when he called. There was fear in his voice. I didn’t hesitate, I just drove.
His house was completely dark, when I arrived. I barely saw the front door drape move as he peeked out to see who was ringing the bell. He cracked the door, told me to park in the garage, then slammed and locked the door in my face. From the porch, I heard the garage door open; I didn’t question, I only went to the Jeep and moved it into his garage. When the garage door was all the way down, he pulled me from the Jeep, fell to his knees, his arms were wrapped around my waist and his face buried sideways in my thighs. He was bawling like a baby.
It’s weird what you remember when you obsess over something. Christmas day, fifteen years ago, I couldn’t tell you anything about what happened on my way to Jimmy’s basement. Today, I can vividly remember the open bottle of Jack on Jimmy’s kitchen counter. I remember the house being so dark I ran my shin into his coffee table. I remember hearing the basement door open and Jimmy closing it before we descended into the man cave. I remember seeing the dead body lying on the cement floor.
I would find out years later what all happened to bring Jimmy, the body, and me all together at that exact time. What was most important, at that moment, was the body belonged to Bill Agosti, the son of local mob boss Big Dan Agosti.
My heart finally found its way to my throat.
Jimmy had gotten into some money trouble with Wild Bill, and he came to Jimmy’s house to collect. I guess Wild Bill figured the best way to intimidate someone would be to show up and make a spectacle on Christmas Eve.
Bill didn’t count on Jimmy’s wife and daughter being in Cleveland, that night.
Bill didn’t count on Jimmy’s inhibitions being in the bottom of the open bottle of Jack.
Bill didn’t count on the Louisville Slugger—the one Jimmy kept by the front door—crushing the side of head in.
I’ve always been proud of how I remained in friend-mode, never asking Jimmy why or who was at fault. I figured there would be Q&A at a later time. I knew there was an urgency, and after discovering who was on the floor, I knew Jimmy wanted me there for more than moral support.
Burying someone as high-profile as Wild Bill Agosti was really not an option, just like going to the police was not an option. Let’s face it, even if a jury found Jimmy innocent, Big Dan’s jury wouldn’t be so forgiving. All we could hope was no one knew Bill was at Jimmy’s. Bill came alone and Jimmy had put Bill’s car in the garage right after he bashed-in Bill’s head. We had to do something to get rid of the car, but we had to really do something to get rid of the body.
Eggnog and bourbon is easier to drink, every Christmas Eve. Christ, this one stopped thinking about being nog about two hours ago.
I don’t know how it happened, but I was able to block out the events of that evening, all year long. That is, until December 24th. Every year, on this date, my mind is flooded with bits and pieces of what happened in Jimmy’s basement.
I’m not sure where Jimmy is, anymore. His wife left him, he bought a Triumph, and he headed west. I haven’t heard from Jimmy in ten years.
Every year—this date, every year—I relive Christmas Eve in Jimmy’s basement. Every year, I recall a little more detail about what we did to Wild Bill’s body. Every year, I find myself gagging when I remember the smell of boiling flesh in Jimmy’s kitchen.
When I think of it, Jimmy had a good friend, in me. I’m not sure he would have cleaned up a dead body for me; I’m not sure how many friends would ever do that. I’m not sure how many true friendships exist, anymore. The kind of friend that keeps the mother of all secrets, vowing to take it to the grave despite the personal hell it puts him through…puts me through.
I wonder who will help my wife clean-up our basement, tomorrow.
Thanks for reading! Please, come back next Monday for three new stories, and feel free to check out The Skinny for info on how you can submit your story to TonyWassom.com